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Current Affairs - 18 August 2017

General Affairs 

34 Farmer Suicides Reported In Maharashtra's Marathwada In Last 8 Days
  • Thirty-four farmers have committed suicide in Marathwada region of Maharashtra in the last eight days, a government report said on Wednesday.

    The region has seen below-average rainfall this monsoon so far.

    Data compiled by the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner showed that 34 farmers ended their lives in eight districts of Marathwada in the last eight days, though the cause has not be ascertained in every case yet.

    As many as 580 farmer suicides have been reported in Marathwada between January 1 and August 15 this year, with Beed district topping the list at 107 suicides, the report said.

    It also mentioned that kharif crops in the region are in trouble because of lack of rains.

    Farmers in Marathwada are fearing crop losses due to a dry spell of the last fortnight.

    Met officials had predicted good showers after August 15, but the rainfall in the last two days has been scattered, said Yogesh Pande, spokesperson of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, a farmer-centric political outfit.

    The state agriculture department has said that of the 355 tehsils in Maharashtra, 223 have not even received 75 per cent of average rainfall till August 15.

Corruption Has Become 'Institutionalised', Needs To Be Uprooted: PM Modi
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said his government is taking steps to uproot corruption that had become institutionalised, and promised more measures to ease problems of the common man.

    Addressing over 200 start-up entrepreneurs at 'Champions of Change' programme in the national capital, he said the government has already ended the systems of interviews for group III and IV employees in the government, ending the role of middlemen, who used to promise jobs for money.

    "It is unfortunate that corruption had become institutionalised. Till you make a counter institutional arrangement, you cannot stop it," PM Modi said at the event organised by Niti Aayog.

    He said as the middlemen are out of work now, they are the ones who are shouting the most about unemployment. The Prime Minister further said that only governments and their initiatives alone will not make a 'New India'.

    "Change will be powered by each and every citizen of India," he stressed.

    Prodding young entrepreneurs to innovate and suggest solutions to deal with different issues, PM Modi said he would like the 'Champions of Change' event to be an annual feature.

    He said the different groups of entrepreneurs, which were set up to suggest policy initiatives, could be attached with the relevant ministries on a permanent basis.

    The Prime Minister said his government has taken numerous measures, like introducing self-attestations of certificates and doing away with interviews for lower posts, to ease life of the common man.

    Referring to the Padma awards, PM Modi said that in past the prestigious awards were given on ministers' recommendation, but the government has now made it open to anyone for nomination.

    "Remember how Padma Awards were given earlier? We brought in a 'small' change - people can recommend names for awards, unlike the past," he said.

    Stressing that the government wants to work together with all citizens towards a New India, the Prime Minister said: Every one of us is equally patriotic and wants India to scale new heights of progress. There is no difference in our love for the nation". 

Farmers Not A Priority For Previous UP Governments: Yogi Adityanath
  • Farmers were not the priority for the governments in Uttar Pradesh for the last 14-15 years but the situation has changed and the politics now will be farmer and youth-centric, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said today.

    He was addressing a gathering at an event where certificates were distributed under the "Rin Mochan Yojna" (Loan waiver scheme), a key pre-poll promise of the BJP. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was the chief guest at the event.

    "Farmers were not the priority of the state governments for the past 14-15 years due to which their condition became from bad to worse. The politics of UP will now recover from this narrow mindedness. The days of politics of family and religion have passed. Now the state politics will be farmer and youth-centric," Mr Adityanath said in an apparent attack on his political rivals.

    Continuing his attack, Yogi Adityanath alleged that the previous governments had become a tool for 'saudebazi' (deal-making).

    "Leaders used to build big mansions and those alive used to construct memorials in their name. Politics was criminalised but we will give transparent and good governance," he said.

    The chief minister said that the government, from today, was initiating the waiver of farmers' loans costing Rs. 36,000 crore to the UP exchequer and the money will be directly sent to farmers' accounts.

    "This is the right of the farmers. The government is not doing them any favour," he added.

    Union Home minister Singh, who was the chief guest at the programme, lauded the state government for working for farmers. Singh said the prime minister had set the target of doubling the income of farmers by 2022.

    Mentioning the menace of stray cattle which leads to loss of crop to farmers, Mr Singh hoped that the chief minister will find a solution.

    He added that the Centre had reduced the price of fertilisers.

    "Earlier farmers got 'lathis' for fertilisers and seeds. But the situation changed after Narendra Modi become the PM. In UP, the work of verification of farmers is going on and 70 lakh of them have been verified," he claimed.

    At the event, Yogi Adityanath also highlighted record purchase of wheat in the state in a record time. On the occasion, over 50 farmers were given certificates of loan waiver on the dais.

Lashkar Terrorist Ayub Lelhari Killed In Encounter In Jammu And Kashmir's Pulwama
  • A district commander of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was killed in a brief encounter with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Wednesday, police said.

    "Ayub Lelhari, a district commander of the LeT, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Pulwama," a police spokesman said.

    Acting on specific information regarding the movement of Ayub Lelhari, police along with Army and the Central Reserve Police Force planned for counter-terror operations at Banderpora, Drubgam and Chandgam areas, the spokesman said.

    He said a vehicle in which the Lashkar terrorist was travelling was intercepted at Banderpora area. "The terrorist tried to escape and opened fire on the joint security force, which retaliated... The terrorist was killed in the crossfire," he said.

    The spokesman said that two police personnel also sustained injuries during the gunfight. One of them has been sent to Army's 92 Base Hospital Badamibagh for treatment. "The driver of the vehicle in which the terrorist was travelling has been arrested," he added.

    The spokesman said Ayub Lelhari had joined terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba in 2015. He was involved in number of terror incidents, including killing of civilians in Pulwama and an attack on security forces.

    He was involved in grenade attacks on an Army camp and a police post at Kakapora. "He was also involved in the killing of sarpanch Fayaz Ahmad Kandizal," the spokesman said.

    "The killing of Ayub Lelhari is yet another success in the fight against terrorism," he said.

'Want Sach Bharat,' Says Rahul Gandhi, BJP Hits Back
  • Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi today attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pitching for a united opposition to take on the BJP, at a meeting hosted by Sharad Yadav, who is recently estranged from Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) boss Nitish Kumar over his alliance with the BJP. 

    "Modi-ji says he wants to create a Swachh Bharat but we want Sach (Truthful) Bharat. Wherever he goes he lies," Mr Gandhi told the gathering of opposition leaders, adding, "if we come together, they will be nowhere to be seen." 

    He drew a quick response from union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who said, "This is an alliance of all the scared people. They are scared of Modi and the BJP. Today's meet was a meeting of all the losing parties" 

    Sharad Yadav had invited opposition leaders for what he called a "Sanjhi Virasat Bachao" (save the country's composite culture) meet, his rebellion against the BJP which his party chief Nitish Kumar, has now joined hands with in Bihar. Mr Yadav's disapproval of Mr Kumar's decision to dump Lalu Yadav and the Congress as allies and partner with the BJP has brought them at breakpoint.  Though there has been no formal severance yet from his party, Sharad Yadav has pledged to work with a united opposition to take on the BJP. Leaders of 17 parties, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the CPM's Sitaram Yechury and other Left leaders attended the meeting at Delhi's Constitution Club today.

    Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party, which had skipped an opposition meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi last Friday, attended today's meeting. The leaders have decided to formulate an action plan for the 2019 national election, when PM Modi will seek re-election. 

    In his attack on the Prime Minister today, Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the government's flagship Make in India programme, alleging most products in the country were "Made in China". He accused the Modi government of not fulfilling election promises made to the people on bringing back black money stashed abroad and creating jobs for the youth.

    He also attacked the BJP's ideological mentor the RSS, saying, "The difference between the RSS and us is that they think the country is theirs....we think we are part of the country."

    "I want to ask him, why doesn't the country vote for you?" said the BJP's Mr Prasad, adding, "his observations are more of a political cry arising out of dismay. He just says whatever comes to his mind, it is quite natural because he is losing everywhere."

Business Affairs

India silently countering Chinese influence on its telecom, power sectors
  • India is tightening the rules for businesses entering its power transmission sector and making stringent checks on both power and telecoms equipment for malware - moves that government and industry officials say aim to check China's advance into sensitive sectors.
    Chinese firms such as Harbin Electric, Dongfang Electronics, Shanghai Electric and Sifang Automation either supply equipment or manage power distribution networks in 18 cities in India.
    Local firms have long lobbied against Chinese involvement in the power sector, raising security concerns and saying they get no reciprocal access to Chinese markets.
    With India and China locked in their most serious military face-off in three decades, the effort to restrict Chinese business has gathered more support from within the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, worried about the possibility of a cyber attack.
    The Indian government is considering a report prepared by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) that sets new conditions for firms bidding for power transmission contracts, tipping the scales in favour of local companies.
    According to an official involved in drafting the report, who asked not to be named, it says companies looking to invest in India should have been operating there for at least 10 years, have Indian citizens as top executives, and employees of the foreign firm should have lived in India for a certain period, the official said.
    Those companies have to detail where they procure the raw materials for transmission systems, and will be barred from further operations in India if their materials contain malware.
    Though the report makes no direct reference to China, the official said the recommendations are intended to deter China from making further headway in India, because of the security risks.
    CEA Chairman R.K. Verma said the possibility of a crippling cyber attack on India's power systems was a key consideration while drafting the policy. "Cyber attacks are a challenge," he told Reuters.
    A representative of a Chinese enterprise engaged in exporting electric power equipment in India told China's state-run Global Times that India's industry has long tried to block foreign competition under the garb of safety issues.
    "Now, as Sino-Indian relations are getting intense, the old tune is on again. But in fact, it is unrealistic to completely ban China and India power investment cooperation. India will pay a huge price for this," the paper said.
    Shanghai Electric, Harbin Electric, Dongfang Electronics and state-run China Southern Power Grid Co Ltd, all involved in India or trying to enter, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the proposed Indian investment rules.
    The Indian government is moving simultaneously on the telecoms sector, demanding higher security standards in an area dominated by Chinese makers of equipment and smartphones.
    In a letter reviewed by Reuters, the ministry of electronics and information technology has asked 21 smartphone makers, most of them Chinese, to provide details about the "safety and security practices, architecture frameworks, guidelines, standards, etc followed in your product/services in the country."
    Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo and Gionee together account for over half of India's $10 billion smartphone market. The letter, dated Aug. 12, was also sent to Apple, Samsung Electronics and local maker Micromax, a ministry source said.
    India has also privately raised objections to Chinese firm Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group's proposed $1.3 billion takeover of Indian drugmaker Gland Pharma, it emerged last month.
    "There's a lot of resentment against China for meddling in our internal affairs, supporting Pakistan's cross-border terrorism, and, on the other hand, posing a huge loss to our trade and industry each year," said Satish Kumar, national president of the Swadesh Jagran Manch, a right-wing nationalist group with ties to Modi's ruling party.
    The group has this year run a campaign asking Indians not to buy Chinese goods to protect local industry and reset a trade deficit of more than $51 billion.
    Cheap Goods
    India has used Chinese equipment for power generation and distribution as it looks to provide affordable electricity to an estimated 250 million people who are off the grid.
    China Southern Power Grid, in association with CLP India Pvt Ltd, is among Chinese firms bidding for power transmission lines, Power Minister Piyush Goyal told Parliament this month.
    Sunil Misra, director-general of the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers' Association, said the new rules for power transmission would help local industry and were in line with the limited access China gives to foreigners in its market.
    Indian firms engaged in the power sector include Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd.
    Security agencies have implemented a series of protocols and checks for Chinese equipment coming into the power sector, said another person involved in drafting the CEA report.

Relief for Jaypee homebuyers: Banruptcy law reforms now allow them to have their money back
  • A person who has to receive a payment from an insolvent company can now seek the claim under the insolvency law as the revised regulations have enabled owners of undelivered flats to get relief.
    Till now, only financial and operational creditors were permitted to seek claims under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
    The revised regulations come at a time when a large number of flat buyers have been left in the lurch, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), due to long delay in deliveries amid the developers citing fund crunch.
    Thousands of home buyers had been left in the lurch after the Allahabad bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) admitted IDBI's plea for initiating insolvency proceedings against Jaypee Infratech for defaulting on a Rs 526-crore loan. IDBI Bank, the leader of the consortium of lenders to the Jaypee Group company, had consented to the appointment of an interim resolution professional, following which the NCLT has appointed Anuj Jain the interim resolution professional to carry out the proceedings under the IBC.
    Meanwhile, Bank of Baroda has approached the NCLT seeking to start proceedings for insolvency against Amrapali for defaulting on loans.
    The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI), which is implementing the Code, has amended the regulations whereby claims can be made by creditors other than financial and operational creditors.
    Such entities should submit proof of their claims to the interim resolution professional or resolution professional, as per a notification issued by the IBBI on Wednesday.
    "There could be claims from a creditor who is not a financial creditor or an operational creditor and it needs a specific form for submitting its claim. The IBBI has amended these regulations today to provide for a form for submission claims by creditors other than financial and operational creditors," the IBBI said in a release.
    The form can be submitted under the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process.
    According to the notification, the existence of the claim can be verified by way of "documentary evidence demanding satisfaction of the claim... and bank statements of the creditor showing non-satisfaction of claim", among other options.
    Once a case is admitted for insolvency or bankruptcy by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), then an interim resolution professional is appointed to take the process forward.
    The interim resolution professional would "collect all information relating to the assets, finances and operations of the corporate debtor for determining its financial position.
    Under the IBC, financial creditor implies any person to whom a financial debt is owed. The financial debt can include money borrowed for interest.
    Operational creditor means a person to whom a company owes an operational debt, which includes those with respect to provision of goods or services.
    On Wednesday, Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley said, "our full sympathy" is with the aggrieved home buyers.
    "Those who are aggrieved can get remedy under this law (IBC). If there is any such move, the government's full sympathy is with those who have paid money and have rights on the flats," the minister had said in response to a question on problems being faced by the home buyers in Noida.

Foodgrain output up by 24.1 million tonnes in FY17
  • The fourth advance estimates released by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, pegged the foodgrain output at 275.68 million tonnes for 2016/17.
    The recent numbers show that the foodgrain production in India has grown by 9.6 per cent from 251.6 million tonnes in the financial year 2015-16. As a result of very good rainfall during monsoon 2016 and various policy initiatives taken by the government, the country has witnessed a record foodgrain production in 2016/17. The estimated foodgrain production of 275.68 million tonnes, is higher by 10.64 million tonnes or 4.01 per cent, than the previous record production of 265.04 million tonnes achieved during 2013/14.  It is also higher by 18.67 million tonnes (7.27 per cent) over the previous five years' average production of foodgrains between 2011/12 & 2015/16.
    Total production of rice is estimated at a new record high of 110.15 million tonnes. Rice production is higher by 3.50 million tonnes (3.28 per cent) than previous record production of 106.65 million tonnes achieved during 2013/14.
    Production of wheat is also at a new high of 98.38 million tonnes in 2016/17. The production is higher by 6.61 per cent, compared to 92.29 million tonnes during 2015/16. Production of coarse cereals estimated at a new record level of 44.19 million tonnes is higher than the average production by 2.85 million tonnes, over the previous five years.
    As a result of significant increase in the coverage area and productivity of all major pulses, total production of pulses during 2016/17 is estimated at 22.95 million tonnes, which is 40.4 per cent higher than the previous year's production.

Mutual funds pump Rs 30,000 crore into market in April-July
  • Mutual funds managers pumped more than Rs 30,000 crore in the stock markets during April-July of the current fiscal due to strong participation from retail investors.
    In comparison, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) bought equities worth 21,000 crore during the period under review.
    "We have been witnessing a shift in investment towards equity class as investment avenues like real estate and gold are not doing well," Vidya Bala, head mutual fund research at said.
    Besides, domestic fund inflows have been looking at the long-term story. Also, they are buoyed by continued strong inflows from retail investors, she added. "The rally in stock markets was the primary reasons for the robust inflows in equities," Bajaj Capital CEO Rahul Parikh said. 
    Besides, successful implementation of GST with no major business disruptions being reported, drove fund managers into equities, he added. Mutual fund managers invested a net sum of Rs 30,264 crore in April-July period of the current financial year, as per data released by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). 

    Month-wise, fund managers invested a net sum of Rs 11,244 crore in stock markets in April, Rs 9,358 crore in May, Rs 9,106 crore in June and Rs 11,800 crore in July.

    The inflow is in line with BSE's benchmark Sensex rising around 10 per cent during the first four months of the current financial year. At present, the mutual fund industry is managing an asset base of about Rs 20 lakh crore mark. 
    Going ahead, fund houses are upbeat over the industry's performance for the entire current fiscal, while expecting investment from new investors to fuel growth of the sector. 

    A mutual fund pools in assets of its investors and invests the money on their behalf. It provides diverse investment instruments like stocks and bonds without requiring investors to make separate purchases and trades.

Bank strike on August 22 to protest against proposed reforms
  • United Forum of Banking Unions (UFBU), the umbrella body of trade unions in the banking sector, has called a nation-wide strike on August 22 to protest against the reforms proposed by the Centre.
    West Bengal convenor of UFBU, Siddhartha Khan said that the government is ushering in privatisation and consolidation in the Indian banking sector in the garb of reforms.
    He said that the Bank Board Bureau had been formed to bring all the public sector banks (PSBs) under a banking investment company and get the government's share in PSBs below 50 per cent.
    Rise in the gross NPAs of all the PSBs to Rs 6.83 lakh crore was also a major cause for concern and the banking system's financial health was suffering due to provisioning.
    "The banks are giving very little stress on recovery of bad loans and taking recourse to either write-offs or provisioning," he told reporters here today.

General Awareness

GST relief for industrial units in Himalayan, NE region till 2027

  • On August 16, 2017, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval to the Scheme of providing Budgetary Support under Goods and Service Tax (GST) Regime for the eligible industrial units located in State of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and North Eastern States including Sikkim.
    GST Relief Beneficiaries:
    • Budgetary support of Rs. 27,413 crore for the said Scheme has been approved for the period from 1.7.2017 till 31.03.2027 for such industrial units located in aforesaid States which availed the benefit of Central Excise exemption prior to coming into force of GST regime.
    • It is estimated that total number of 4284 eligible units located in the State(s) of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and North Eastern States including Sikkim will benefit from the above scheme. 
    Rationale for Providing GST Relief:
    • The Government of India was implementing North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP), 2007 for North Eastern States including Sikkim and Package for Special Category States for Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to promote industrialization.
    • One of the benefits of the NEIIPP, 2007 and Package for Special Category States was excise duty exemption for first 10 years after commencement of commercial production.
    • Upon repeal of the Central Excise duty laws, the Government has decided to pay a budgetary support equal to the central share of the cash component of Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST) paid by the affected eligible industrial units.
    Quick Facts about Goods and Services Tax (GST):
    • The GST is a destination-based, single indirect tax that is levied on consumption of goods or use of services across India.
    • It was rolled out in India from July 1, 2017.
    • GST replaced 16 levies (7 central taxes and 9 state taxes), consequentially creating India as one market with one tax rate.
    • Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council headed by Union Finance MinisterArun Jaitley and comprising representatives of all states have finalised four tax brackets under GST viz. 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.

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